10 WORST Tips for Creating CHARACTERS
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There is a ton of bad writing advice floating around the internet, and truthfully, a lot of it comes from people who haven't actually finished a written project. Which, to be fair, checks out. And there's some especially bad writing advice when it comes to creating characters. So I'm breaking down the 10 worst tips I've seen for creating characters, just for you.
You've probably seen some of this advice before, maybe on Reddit. Probably came from someone's mom's basement… you know the type. Just a heads up: this post is extremely sarcastic. Don't implement any of these tips under any circumstances unless you want your characters to blow major ass.
On to the shitty advice in three, two, one, go!
This video is sponsored by Milanote. As always, all opinions are my own.
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Number 1: Wing It
The best character is the one you put no thought into whatsoever. Character profiles, character boards, character face claims–all trash! Who cares if it's vital to have an understanding of your character's personality and behaviors? Who cares if characters are one of the top reasons readers pick up books in the first place? It's not like human beings are complex, layered creatures whose personalities and lifestyles are easily affected by compelling forces like trauma, upbringing, family, and even race or gender. And there definitely aren't entire fields of study devoted to understanding even a small segment of this information, let alone humanity as a whole. If you want to guarantee you've written a solid character, make ‘em up as you go along! Think of all the inconsistencies as a charming little guessing game for your reader.
Number 2: Emulate
Wanna write but lack creativity? Then now is the perfect time to emulate! You only got into writing because you were obsessed with The Wheel of Time, anyway. Now you're gonna duplicate it from top to bottom, starting with your characters.
The great part about this is it's easy! You take a popular fictional character and then change one, maybe two traits. Bonus points if those two changed traits are also your traits! For example, he used to be the Witcher. Now he's the Witcher and an incel. Nailed it!
Instead of Bilbo Baggins, you're unleashing Dildo Grabbins. Instead of writing Harry Potter, you're whipping out Harry Pooter. Character creation doesn't need to involve thought or invention. After all, popular media only exists to be vaguely (but not legally) plagiarized.
Number 3: Self Insert
“But Jenna, I don't want to write an original story! I just want to create a world where I can fulfill my greatest fantasies.”
Have I got a solution for you! Introducing self inserts: the easiest characters to write, because they're you–except better in every way. Tired of never getting the girl? Then write a self insert, and you'll always get the girl, at least if she's fictional. You always wanted to be respected, but instead of behaving in a way that garners success, simply write yourself into a book as a wizard, a royal, or a wealthy heir adored by all. Fictional love feels almost as good as the real thing!
Self inserts are the perfect character, because absolutely no one can relate to them. We don't have massive titties that defy gravity, and we actually have to have some semblance of a personality if we want to get laid. But self inserts don't have that limitation, do they?
Self inserts: because achieving your goals in the real world is too damn hard.
Number 4: Cast So White
I see you got 20 characters there, and all of them are white. Wow, such creativity... How ever did you manage?
White people only make up a fraction of the world's population, so it makes complete sense that they make up 100% of your cast. But what about queer characters? Neurodivergence? Physical disability, or body diversity?
Oh, all of your characters are cis white neurotypical able-bodied human beings? Perfect! I literally don't know a single person who fits that description, but I totally believe that 20 of them exist in your book. Besides, two of those 20 characters are women. Not one, but two! A whole ten percent! You're really making a statement. Talk about wokeness to the max! I bet they even have agency. Give this neckbeard a trophy!
Number 5: One Dimension is Enough
Layers are for onions, not people. When crafting a character, all you need is one trait, some archetype or box to shove your character into.
Is your character a healer? Congratulations! They get to heal people! That's it.
Is your leading lady a cheerleader? Then keep her as peppy and one-note as possible, and you're good to go!
This practice can apply to any trait. Your hero must be heroic. Your damsel must be distressed. And don't forget, if your character is a person of color, LGBTQ+, or from any marginalized group at all, that is the only dimension they need. Skin color can totally be a personality trait! Just like sexuality or mental illness… My singular trait is generalized anxiety disorder. You can tell because I'm a fucking mess!
Number 6: Write What You Know, and ONLY What You Know
If you don't have the same exact traits as your characters, how will you ever expect to understand them? It's not like basic deduction, comprehension, and empathy exist! It's also not like we can just listen to people share their experiences and learn from their journeys.
“But Jenna! Writers write about werewolves, wizards, and serial killers all the time!”
That's because those writers are werewolves, wizards, and serial killers! Hellooo! How else are they going to understand those characters? Certainly not through research or thinking. I only write about 33 year old caustic women who own their own business and loathe humanity at large, because a fedora on Reddit told me that's the only character I'm qualified to write! Characters with literally zero differentiation and absolutely no opposing traits are so compelling.
Number 7: Positive Traits Are for Mary Sues
Your main character is kind sometimes? Pfft! Talk about a Mary Sue! It's human nature to be flawed beyond comprehension, so if your character–particularly a main character–has any common sense, or integrity, or even an ounce of human decency, you're taking crazy pills!
No one is good. No one has any good traits at all! I am literally a walking piece of shit. In fact, for every good trait your character has, you should add two to three flaws to balance it out. Your main character has table manners, but they're also cruel, abusive, and misogynistic. That's a hero I can depend on!
Remember, a good character is a character with one positive trait hidden in a sea of diarrhea. Bare minimum ethical standards don't exist in the real world, so they shouldn't exist in your fictional world!
Number 8: Treat Every Character Like the Main Character
We already covered that it takes time and care to craft a character... or maybe we covered the exact opposite? I really don't care. But some writers wonder, “Do I need to create a Milanote board for every single one of my characters?”
The best rule of thumb is to treat all of your characters like the main character. Every. Single. One.
The villain? Of course! They're an important character. Chart the shit out of them! The love interest? Absolutely! A lot of readers read books for the love interest alone. A friend of a friend who drives the main character to school one time? Duh! Their tumultuous backstory is relevant to nothing at all! The background character that has one line and is never even given a name? Especially them! You need to know every detail of their torrid love affairs and golden shower kinks. Some people think this advice maybe shouldn't be taken so literally, but those people need to die in a fire. Character charts for every single character, or I'm calling the police!
Number 9: You Only Get ONE Comic Relief
Only one, because it's not like funny people exist in droves. Listen, this is literature. It's not supposed to be realistic or relatable to real life. You're allowed to write one funny character, and it's their job to shove obnoxious jokes down the reader's throat, and then disappear from the plot until the next force-feeding.
I know the comic relief is usually the most annoying, hated character in the book, but they need to exist, because Disney said so. And no other character is allowed to be funny under any circumstance, because a sense of humor is an extremely rare trait. It's right up there with mansplaining and sexual activity.
Number 10: Fuck the Villain
Not literally! Unless he's hot, then probably…
You don't need to put any thought into creating the villain. They're the villain. They're evil. Boom! Ya done.
Evil is their single motivation. Evil is their sole character trait. Evil is the driving force of their entire being. What else is there to figure out? Backstory? Intention? Personality and weakness? None of that is relevant to the villain. They're just there to laugh maniacally and then reveal their entire plan in an unprompted monologue. Don't waste your time crafting an "original," "complex" villain, because those don't exist.
So that's all I've got for you today!
If you didn't catch it, while all of this advice is definitely floating around the internet, it's also terrible and this post is sarcastic. Please don’t implement any of these tips into your writing. Plan your characters. Give them layers and dimension. Make them diverse and relatable! Make them real.
What’s some of the worst character creation advice you’ve ever heard? Let me hear it in the comments below!
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